Legends on Euro 2016 - Pat Jennings
07 June 2016|Tottenham Hotspur
The countdown is on to the start of Euro 2016 - and we've gathered the views of four Spurs legends who graced the major tournament stage for their countries. Next up, Pat Jennings on Northern Ireland...
Pat Jennings first attempted to qualify for a major tournament with Northern Ireland in 1964. He admits that by the start of the 1982 World Cup qualifying process, he thought the biggest international stage might have passed him by.
But he got there in the end as Billy Bingham's men finally made it to the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain and then followed up by reaching the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
No-one was therefore prouder to witness the class of 2016 reach the European Championship finals for the first time and the style Michael O'Neill's men achieved that feat - top of their group with just one loss in 10.
It's no wonder Pat says Northern Ireland are confident going to France - now on a 12-match unbeaten run - but the legendary former goalkeeper is also realistic of their chances with a tough group up against Poland, Ukraine and Germany.
What is your enduring memory of the 1982 and 1986 World Cup Finals?
Pat: "I'd have to go for beating Spain in their back yard in 1982. It was a special night - and don't forget it was another ex-Spurs player who scored that night in Gerry Armstrong! We had Mel Donaghy sent off in the second half and played with 10 men for half-hour, but we were brilliant. There are so many memories though like playing Brazil on my 41st birthday in Mexico, my final cap."
Below: Pat celebrates a draw for Northern Ireland at Wembley in 1985 to secure qualification for the 1986 World Cup
What do you think of Northern Ireland's chances in Euro 2016?
Pat: "Realistically, we've done unbelievably well to qualify and not only qualify, but to qualify as group winners. We're unbeaten now in 12 matches, fantastic. If we can get anything out of the first two games against Poland and Ukraine it will give us a chance going into the Germany match, and they haven't been convincing for a while now. In terms of confidence, the team is up for it and Michael O'Neill has done a fantastic job."
We have 11 players at Euro 2016, including five in the England squad. What does that say about the club at the moment?
Pat: "I don't remember us having so many representatives in the past, especially in the England squad, so that's fantastic for the club, something to be very proud of. The great thing is that they are all so young as well."
Who else do we need to look out for in Euro 2016?
Pat: "Belgium certainly have the players and if anything, they have under-achieved in tournaments with the depth of their squad. So you'd be looking at them not as outsiders, but a team that could do much better. France will be helped by home support but really, it's anyone's tournament."
Finally, who do you think will win the tournament?
Pat: "Germany is always a starting point but they haven't been in great form recently. Having said that, they always produce in the major tournaments. Belgium should have a great chance. From my point of view, I'd love to see both Ireland teams do well, England and Wales, I'd like to see the home countries do well."
Pat Jennings won the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup and two League Cups in 590 appearances for us between 1964-1977. He was also crowned PFA Player of the Year in 1976. He was capped 119 times by Northern Ireland and played in the 1982 and 1986 World Cup Finals. He remains a coach in our Academy, aged 70.